Long before the Washington Nationals traded for outfielder Denard Span, a piece of his history came from D.C. The Florida native never lived in the District and has spent a fairly short amount of time here during the first 28 years of his life.
But he was born in D.C.
“I don’t think (my mom, Wanda Wilson) planned on having me in Washington, D.C.,” Span said Thursday with a brief laugh. “I think she’d planned on having me in Fort Lauderdale. I ended up just popping out early.”
Wilson, who attended college in the District, was visiting family when she was pregnant with Span. Span said his uncle had lived in D.C. for over 20 years. She was planning on the trip to be nothing more than that, but Wilson went into labor and Span will have D.C. on his birth certificate for eternity.
Moments after Span got the news that he’d been traded to the Nationals on Thursday, he spoke with his mother. She reminded him of his roots in his new town, even telling him the name of the hospital that he was born in. But Span, admittedly “very excited” and experiencing a range of emotions, couldn’t remember it by the time he spoke with reporters on a conference call.
“I haven’t been there enough to have a big opinion on the city,” Span said. “Just from watching TV the last couple years, I saw the new stadium and the way the fan base rallied behind the team last year. I’m definitely excited to just get to call D.C. my home.”
If the early reactions are any indications, Span, who admittedly isn’t very good with names, will be welcomed with open arms. He already knows Wilson Ramos from their days in the Twins organization together and has met Ryan Zimmerman and Tyler Clippard in his hometown of Tampa.
Multiple players expressed excitement over the deal via text message on Thursday, noting how much stronger it makes the Nationals as a team and the options it opens up for them with other roster decisions.
“Just another FL boy joining the party,” shortstop Ian Desmond tweeted at Span Thursday evening. “Welcome aboard.”
“I’m nervous to meet everybody,” Span said. “I’ve been in the Minnesota organization for 10 years and Minnesota’s a very family-oriented organization. The same guys who were there when I got drafted 10 years ago are still there now. This is new for me.
“I’m going to have to try to figure it out. I’m going to have to try to remember everybody’s name, from clubhouse guys to the players, coaching staff, everybody. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my notepad out and trying to keep track of people’s names. I’ll figure it out.”
Span learned of the trade in a conversation with Twins GM Terry Ryan Thursday afternoon. It was a bit of a somber chat, he said. But that call was followed shortly by one with Nationals GM Mike Rizzo. Rizzo, who scouted Span in high school and has long been a fan of his talents, attempted to acquire Span at the 2011 trade deadline and the Nationals’ push to add him meant a lot to Span.
“That’s the greatest feeling any ballplayer can have, when you’re wanted,” Span said. “When a team does whatever they have to do to trade for you or try to acquire you through free agency, it’s a good feeling. To be wanted. I talked to Mr. Rizzo and I could hear it in his voice, how excited he was to have me. I heard his voice and it kind of brought some energy into me… I talked to Mike and it kind of gave me some life. I’m just ready to go.”
Span spoke glowingly of the prospect of playing in an outfield with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper — three players who all possess the capability to play center field and will compile one of the rangiest outfields in the game.
“I’m very excited to be playing alongside both of those guys,” Span said. “Two All-Star caliber players. I feel like I need to step my game up and try to get to the All-Star game, hopefully. I think they’re going to elevate my game just by playing alongside with them.
Span also addressed his health issues from 2011, which were centered around a concussion that took him a significant amount of time to get over. The Nationals’ medical personnel cleared him before the deal was completed.
“I’m confident that (it’s behind me),” he said. “I feel like last year was a good sign of that. I don’t feel like I played 100 percent to my capability last year, but I was able to go out and prove that I still can be a good player.
“(The concussion) was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through. The reason why I said I wasn’t ready for (this trade) a year-and-a-half ago was because I was going through the concussions. Hearing trade talks and going through a concussion wasn’t easy for me. But fast-forward to today, I’m definitely ready.”